XP SP3 Glitch So Far Limited To HP

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"I checked with the resources I have and it seems that we have not had any issues with any manufacturer other than HP," the Microsoft customer service rep wrote Monday in an online chat in which ChannelWeb inquired into the nature of the SP3 reboot problem.

Microsoft seems to have been aware of the SP3 installation glitch since at least May 6, when the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant published a Knowledge Base article with a workaround.

But issues with SP3 installations really came to the fore when Jesper Johansson, a former senior security strategist at Microsoft and current Microsoft MVP, wrote in a blog post last week that a problem was occurring upon the installation of SP3 on some AMD-based desktop PCs. According to the Microsoft article, system crashes and repeated reboots stem from an orphaned registry key that remains on non-Intel PCs receiving an SP1 Sysprep image created on an Intel processor-based computer.

"Under this configuration, after the computer is upgraded to Windows XP SP2 or SP3, the Intel processor driver (Intelppm.sys) may try to load," thus causing the reboot issues, according to Microsoft. The driver, which handles power management on Intel-based PCs, causes problems on AMD-based machines on the first reboot after installing XP SP3, Johansson reported.

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"The computer either fails to boot, as in my case, or crashes with a STOP error code of 0x0000007e. It will boot into safe mode because the drivers are disabled there," Johansson wrote.

Microsoft's fix for the problem involves starting a PC in safe mode and modifying the registry to remove the intelppm.sys driver.

Officially, Microsoft has not singled out Palo Alto., Calif.-based HP as the sole vendor experiencing the reboot issue.

"Microsoft is aware of a reboot issue experienced by some users who have attempted to install Windows XP SP3. While the root cause of this issue is complex, it results from OEMs improperly placing a Windows XP image created for an for Intel-based computer onto machines with non-Intel chipsets," a spokesperson for Microsoft told ChannelWeb.

The spokesperson added that Microsoft had advised OEMs in 2004 "to only load Windows XP images onto like hardware."

HP did not reply to a request for comment.

AMD is currently directing customers with SP3 installation issues related to the Sysprep image to Microsoft customer support, a spokesperson for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker said.

"Microsoft's pretty much taken the lead on this and enabled the fix. It's not anything we had to do with on the image side or the software side. If we get any phone calls, we've been sending them to Microsoft customer support," she said.

The spokesperson said "a small number of XP users" on desktop PCs were affected but not Vista users or those with laptops. She also deferred to Microsoft's own official statements on which OEM products might be affected.

"I don't know if it's HP or other OEMs. I know that HP is what's been reported. Microsoft's own position is, it's OEMs in general," she said.

Meanwhile, episodes like this prove that it pays to do proper testing of service packs before rolling them out, said David Dadian, CEO of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.-based computer reseller PowerSolution.com.

"We just began testing on [XP SP3] and we haven't seen this issue yet. I don't know if we'll have any issues, but we do have one or two AMD processors here and we're an all-HP shop, so it's good to find out about these things sooner rather than later," Dadian said.

Kevin McLoughlin contributed to this report.